Jennifer Openshaw says: Don't be afraid to start your own business

Starting your own business may seem like a scary idea in today's economy. But for women who do their homework, it can be done.

You just need to take a few simple steps -- for one, start with the WeSeed philosophy of going for what you know. If you take the right steps, who's the boss? You are!

Here's my advice, which I'll be offering to WalletPop readers on a regular basis, so tune in...

Yes, starting a business isn't easy. And it's even tougher in this economy. But it's one of the most satisfying things you'll ever do.

Here's the deal: I talk to a lot of women and I hear the same things. "It's too scary." "I'm not sure where to start." "I don't know too many women who do this."

That last one is tough: The numbers say that over 30% of all privately held businesses are owned by women, but they receive less than 5% of the total venture capital available, according to the Senate Small Business Committee.

Doesn't sound fair, does it? And it proves that the dough is steeped in the old boys' club -- no wonder there are more businesses owned by men. But if you have a dream, you're not going to stay home and cook dinner, and you're not going to accept a cap on your capital stream.

Here's what I want you to do:

• Start with what you know. Do what I've done look to your everyday life for problems needing a solution. They're right in front of you. It's how we teach people about investing at WeSeed and it's the same approach you'll want to use in starting a business. Why? Because you want to tap into that powerful knowledge you already have.

• Pen your plan. When you meet with venture capitalists, they're going to ask for a business plan. This is the one document you want to start its stuff. It doesn't have to be a zillion pages but it needs to be concise – map out what, where, how, when, and why. Detail how the company is going to succeed and then get it out there. National Association of Women Business Owners has a list of resources, including business plan samples and media outlets, that can help you.

• Form a corporate board. Look, credibility is everything. You want to you're your company look like a star, even if it's not one... yet. Find leaders in your industry, community association committee members, and media types to back your cause.

• Find out who's who in VC. Venture capital funds often specialize, so don't go after the semi-conductors capitalists if your biz is all about fashion. And don't forget - there are venture capitalists like Women's Growth Capital Fund (WGCF), VCFodder, and Fund Isabella that only invest in female entrepreneurs.
could be you!

• Put your purse down. If a venture capitalist doesn't throw a few dollars your way, there are plenty of federal and state grants that are earmarked for women's initiatives. And I know a lot of women who've gotten them. Federal law mandates a 5% procurement goal for women-owned businesses. In 2006, the Feds doled out $11.6 billion in women's grants, according to the Federal Procurement Report. has an easy search, too.

Just because we're starting low with the venture capital dollars doesn't mean it has to stay that way. Now go out and bring home the bacon for your business.

I'm Jennifer Openshaw with WeSeed, helping you start with what you know.

For more small business advice and articles, check out AOL Small Business.
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